The first few days weeks of school, I go over every single routine I can think of and explicitly teach students the expectationsregarding those routines. Never take anything for granted!! Trust me--if you just assume that five-year olds know how to sit at a cafeteria table with 20 or so of their new friends and quietly eat their lunches--you're going to end up with 20 or so kids running around the cafeteria with chicken nuggets in their pockets and peanut butter in their hair!
On the very first morning of school, well before their their little bellies start rumbling, I take the kids down to the empty cafeteria (this is actually a school-wide expectation.) We go over everything--step by step. We line up, we go through the cafeteria line, we get our invisible milk, we get our invisible trays, we make our invisible side choices, we scan our lunch cards--all the while, I'm talking about what their bodies should look like and their voices should sound like.
We go to our table and I show them exactly how to sit. And then I show them what not to do--stand on the benches, crawl under the table, run around, scream, yell--they love that part.
Then I show them exactly how to clean up. We go through the whole routine with our invisible lunches. And then we line up to leave.
I try my best to think of every possibility and cover it all (although they always manage to think of something else. I mean, who knew that some kids think it's funny to stick pretzel sticks up their noses?)
It takes a big chunk of time, but it's well worth it. Depending on the class, I sometimes do this 2 or 3 times that first week. And I always do it again mid-year as a refresher.
After we return to the room, we make a T-chart of good choices and bad choices. I let the kids act these out (they always want to act out the bad ones!) From this list, we make a final list of expectations.
The next day, I print these out. We review them again and then we make fun little paper lunchboxes and glue them inside (good coloring, cutting and gluing practice). I let the kids take them home and ask the parents to go over these expectations with their children for a little added reinforcement.
Here is a blackline master for lunchboxes. I've included a MS Word document as well in case you would like to use your own class/school cafeteria expectations.
I always read the book Lunch by Denise Fleming to introduce this activity. The kids love to guess what food the mouse will eat next.
But I also found these on Amazon:
Manners in the Lunchroom by Amanda Doering Tourville
I just ordered this one. I have Manners at School already and really like it, so I'm hoping this one is good as well.
Mealtimeby Elizabeth Verdick
I love all of these Free Spirit Publishing books. Even though they're for toddlers, I find they are good jumping off points for kindergarten discussions.
Please Pass the Manners by Lola Schaefer